Illuminated Hebrew Letter Series - Kaf
Illuminated Kaf - by Adam Rhine
Watercolor on Paper

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“All shall speak of Your kingdom’s glory, and of Your power they will relate.” Tehillim/Psalm 145:11

Kaf holds the eleventh position in the alphabet, and has a numerical value of twenty. Here it begins the word kavod which means “honor”, “glory” or “respect”. It is incumbent on us to bring this attitude to all of G-d’s creation, and to the Source of all creation when we stand in prayer. Kaf is the first letter of the word “kavannah,” which means “intention”, an essential preparation of the heart and mind before prayer, speech and action.

Kaf is the root of kipah – a skullcap – and also means the palm of the hand. The shape of the letter has been described as a crown on the head of a prostrating king. It is not surprising that it begins the word keter or “crown” which is the highest of the ten Sefirot. The crown represents the Supreme Nobility of Hashem, and a level of spiritual elevation beyond human comprehension. With this imagery we can relate to the skullcap as the palm of G-d blessing the head to fulfill its highest purpose.

20 appears in the Bible several times: Joseph’s brothers sold him for 20 pieces of silver; Jacob worked for Laban for 20 years; and the maximum height of the Sukkah (the temporary dwelling we reside in on the holiday of Sukkot) is 20 cubits.

In honoring and respecting each other, we glorify G-d. May kaf remind us to purify our hearts and minds for prayer and meditation so we may receive the presence, the palm, of the Holy One.

Text by Louise Temple from the book "Hebrew Illuminations"